Insects and other foods the trout should be eating:
1. BWOs (Little and baetis BWOs)
2. Little Yellow Quills
3. Needle Stoneflies
Most available/ Other types of food:
5. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
Some Very Important Tips On Fishing The Cold Water
I have not taken the time to fish any this past week. I made a couple of out of town trips and, of course, there
was the fine Thanksgiving meal prepared by Angie that took me two days to eat. I did make two short trips
into the park during the past week. I talked to one angler that was fishing yesterday afternoon. He was the
only person I saw that went to the park to fish and he had given up on it.
I'm sure everyone is aware of the cold snap that just passed. The water in the small freestone streams of the
Smokies is very cold. I took the temperature of the water in the Metcalf Bottoms area near the location the
gentleman was fishing yesterday afternoon to find it was even lower than I expected it to be. The water was
only 42 degrees near the middle of the afternoon. The air temperature (in the lower elevations of the park)
was about 50 degrees. The forecast high for Gatlinburg was only 53 so I feel certain that the water
temperature was about as high as it was going to get.
Guess what the nice gentleman was doing. He was fishing a nymph in the shallow riffles. Granted, the stream
(Little River) was very low for this time of the year and granted, it wasn't moving very fast, but if the poor guy
offered to bet me a few bucks, I would have given him two to one odds that he would not catch a single trout.
He said he had fished for about two hours without a strike or at least one that he was able to detect. Fishing
the type of water he was fishing in the manner in which he was fishing it, the odds of him catching a trout
were about the same as the odds of him getting mauled by cougar. The main reason for his lack of success
was he was fishing the wrong type of water.
The very first thing trout do when the water gets cold (I'll use the low forties as my definition of cold) is get out
of the current. If they didn't and they remained in much current for very long, they would likely die. In general,
trout holding in faster moving water of the small streams of the Smokies that's very cold are forced to expend
more energy than they can acquire food to replace.
This doesn't necessarily mean they abandon the runs. There can be slow, even still water, in holes in the
bottom of runs. They do abandon the riffles, and the shallower and faster the water is moving, the quicker
they abandon them. It's possible for them to hold up in deeper holes with very slow or still water within the
area of riffles, but that would be the exception, not the case. In either case, deep holes in the bottom of runs,
or deep pockets within the area of riffles that has slow moving or still water, you will face a huge problem in
presenting a fly that imitates the naturals. In a riffle or run, the water in the upper column of water near the
surface is moving fast, or a least moderately. That makes it almost impossible to present a fly close to the
mouth of a trout holding out of the current on the bottom at the same speed of the water the fish is holding in.
The upper column of faster moving water tends to drag the fly through holes on the bottom that are out of the
current, even when the fly is heavily weighted.
If there's much available light, there's yet another reason that trout don't hold in shallow water pockets in cold
water, even if the water is slow moving. That would expose them to overhead predators. Unless there has
been enough rain to slightly stain the water, cold water is always very clear. In general, under cold water
conditions, trout will seek either deeper water or hiding places under cover within the shallower water areas.
You can sometimes succeed in catching trout by high sticking the deep runs. You should seek out the deep
holes out of the current by adding a lot of weight provided you have vertical control of the speed of the fly on
the bottom. In other words, if your fishing almost straight down below the tip of the rod, you can slow the drift
of the fly, even when the upper current is moving relatively fast. You have to be in direct contact with the fly,
meaning you shouldn't have any slack in the fly line, leader or tippet. The problem with this at this particular
time is, in general, the water is too shallow to effectively use the high sticking method. You must stay hidden
from the trout when you fishing very close in and you can't do that very well in shallow water.
Your best chance of success is to fish the deeper areas of the pools, deep pockets behind boulders, deep
undercut banks with slow to still water, calm water pockets along the bank that are out of the current or any
deeper area of the stream where the water is moving very slow or not at all. For the most part, this will be
holes in the bottom of the stream where the trout can hold out of the current. Wherever you fish,
the fly should also move very slowly or at the same speed of the water the trout are holding in. Under these
cold water conditions (again for purposes of this article, meaning water less than 45 degrees) trout will not be
aggressive enough to chase a fast moving fly down. They will move very little to take a fly. They will still eat,
but just as a rule of thumb, they won't move much over a few inches to do it. If the fly passes through the
water faster than the current, it will probably tend to scare them more than attract them.
Fishing slow moving to still water that is relatively deep (fishing a fly you can't see to a fish you can't see)
requires completely different techniques than the normal fishing methods used in the Smokies. I have found
very few anglers that attempt to fish when the water is very cold. During most cold winter days, you will have
most streams to yourself. In my opinion and from my observations, few anglers have as much as tried to
perfect the techniques required to fish cold water in small freestone streams. For example, although I'm sure
it has been done, I have yet to see anyone fishing midges in the park even though it is a relatively plentiful
food for the trout.
Weather and Stream Conditions In the Smokies:
Although I just finished writing an article about fishing very cold water with low stream levels, you won't have
to be concerned about it during the coming week. The weather is predicted to be much warmer. We even
have some chances for rain in the near future. Today's high in Gatlinburg (1600 feet elevation) will be near
60. Rain is likely (60% chance) tonight and early tomorrow morning. Instead of a low temperature in the
twenties, tonight's low should be around 40 degrees. That makes a huge difference in the rate the water
temperature increases during the day.
Tuesday will be a little cooler with rain likely in the morning. It should be cloudy with a high near 53. The low
Tuesday night will drop back down to around freezing. Wednesday should be sunny with a high near 51 with
a low that night of about 27. Hopefully, those cold temps will be short lived. Thursday's high should be near
55 with a low that night of 33.
Here comes the good new for those that have to work for a living. Friday's high should be near 57. Friday
night's low should be a slightly warmer 38. There's a slight chance of rain again on Saturday. That means it
will probably be mostly cloudy. The high Saturday will be around 60. I'll abuse the Kings language and say "it
don't get no better than that". The low Saturday night should be a much better number of around 44.
Sunday, the slight chance of rain will remain at 20 percent with a high temperature near 62. Get off the couch
and fish. Remember, it is still the Fall season, not Winter.
Fly Fishing Strategies for the coming week will be posted tomorrow.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh